“Timid” is not the word you’d use to describe Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber.
So, when news broke this week that Gelber wrote a spirited letter to the Department of the Interior (DOI) regarding Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ compact with the Seminole tribe, it’s no surprise Gelber told DOI officials exactly what he thought.
“I support the goals of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (‘IGRA’), namely, to provide Native American tribes with a pathway to greater independence and economic vitality. But the Florida Compact you are considering was not crafted in pursuit of those goals,” Gelber wrote. “It was simply a vehicle hijacked by non-tribal casino interests who fully corrupted the legislative and executive process in order to obtain advantages outside of tribal land and in direct contravention to the interests of Floridians.”
“Non-tribal casino interests” may be a side-eye at Soffer, Trump
Gelber’s fiery assertion that the compact is the result of special interests hijacking the process is not abnormal for the mayor. Earlier this year, he blasted billionaire Jeffrey Soffer‘s attempt to transfer his casino license from a Hallandale Beach property to Soffer’s Fontainbleau hotel on Miami Beach.
In an interview with a Miami Beach CBS station, Gelber said casinos are “horrible for a community” and make a lot of money for “very few people” who line politicians’ pockets to get what they want.
Soffer isn’t the only mogul hinting at moving a casino to the Miami area. Former President Donald Trump’s son Eric said in a statement that his father’s Trump National Doral resort and golf course would make for an “unmatched gaming destination.”
While Gelber did not name any names in his letter to the DOI, he did speak specifically about gifts that special interest groups give politicians to grease the proverbial wheels…gifts that sound a lot like what Soffer was doing earlier this year.
“These same interests, according to news accounts, provided gifts in the form of plane trips, parties on yachts and other non-monetary contributions to state officials including Governor DeSantis,” he wrote. “Indeed, their efforts paid off, as Governor DeSantis included provisions in the Florida Compact that set the groundwork for casino expansion for a prime campaign donor at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach and for his major political patron at the Trump Doral.”
Gelber goes after 15-mile rule
It’s not just the alleged backdoor deals that irk Gelber. According to his letter, he takes issue with a special provision in the compact that would allow Trump and Soffer to launch casinos in the Miami area.
Specifically, the compact says that a pari-mutuel facility can open or move slot gaming to new locations in Broward and Miami-Dade county so long as the new location is at least 15 miles away from the tribe’s “facility.” This refers to its Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood property in Davie.
That 15-mile radius would make it possible for Trump to open a casino on his Doral property and Soffer to add a casino to his Fontainbleau hotel.
Adding to Gelber’s beef is the fact that, in 2018, Florida voters approved an amendment that would require Florida voters to approve gambling expansion. The 15-mile rule provides a workaround and “the only route arguably available to expand gambling to non-Indian interest,” Gelber wrote.
DOI has 45 days to decide on compact
Per the Indian Gaming Regulation Act of 1988 (IGRA), the DOI has 45 days to review the compact from the date it was submitted to ensure the compact adheres to the IGRA’s regulations.
During that time period, interested parties can send letters of approval or disapproval.
Several outcomes are possible during the review period. The DOI may identify sections of the compact that they will not accept, such as allowing sports betting at retail tribal casinos but not via mobile devices located off tribal land.
Or, the IGRA notes that the DOI could remain silent, in which case the compact would pass once the 45-day deadline passes.